The Rewrite of the Jedi

There is a part of Return of the Jedi that bugs me. No, it's not the Ewoks. There is one part in the final act, the most important act of the entire trilogy, that is just flat out wrong. You ever watch, read or hear a story and realize that it has completely gone off the rails? Jumping the shark is just a subset of this phenomenon.

My problem is with the final confrontation in the Death Star when Vader suggests that Leia may turn to the Dark Side if Luke doesn't, and in response, Luke yells 'Never!' The setup for this wrong moment is Vader and Luke have already tried to turn one another unsuccessfully on Endor. Luke attacked the Emperor, Vader intercedes, they battle. Luke hides and Vader goads him to fight by realizing that Luke is protective of Leia. He realizes he's hit a soft spot and uses it to anger Luke to the point of attacking him.

1st moment that plays wrong: Vader uses knowledge of Leia to goad Luke, nothing more. Think about this: Vader just learned that Luke has a sister, meaning he has a daughter, Leia Organa. Vader is calm, using the Force, able to think clearly. A daughter that is very similar to her mother, a daughter whose planet he blew up and who he oversaw the torture of. And his only reaction is to use it to make Luke angry enough to attack him by threatening to turn her to the Dark Side.

2nd moment that plays wrong: Luke falls for it and attacks him, yelling that horrible "Never!" Why? Is there any reason at all to think that Leia would turn to the Dark Side? She is the only hero who never wavers in her beliefs, even when her world is threatened. Why would he be worried about that? And it upsets him so that he figures its better to fall to the Dark Side now to stop it? My first clue that something was wrong with the end of Jedi was when Luke yells "Never!" and charges Vader.

3rd moment that plays wrong: two minutes later, Vader turns to the good side and saves Luke. Why? Apparently because the Emperor is about to kill Luke and pleads for Vader to save him. So after 20 years at the Emperor's side, killing Jedi children, killing Padme, including apparently ready to destroy both his children by turning them to the Dark Side, Vader pulls the biggest turnaround since the Grinch's heart grew in size. And the Emperor, who doesn't trust Vader at all since this whole Luke business came up, who can read his thoughts, he doesn't see it coming at all. This is just weak.

I agree with George Lucas on the major theme to be tied up here: the son resists the Dark Side, and ultimately redeems the father, Rebellion wins. Good ending, fits the mythical themes and motifs. Got it. But the execution doesn't work. It could have been so much better:

A stronger dramatic moment would be for Vader to turn when he learns about Leia. Luke had him on the fence down on Endor. Luke can feel his father's conflict, remember? The Leia surprise should do it. From the end of Empire we know he wants Luke to join him to overthrow the Emperor. Now he knows he has a son and a daughter who are on the right side, and how can he not be proud of Leia, who must remind him of Padme? There would be a ton of emotions going on behind the mask, none to the advantage of the Emperor.

A stronger action scene after the lull when Luke refuses to fight would be a 2 on 1 of Vader and Luke versus Palpatine. We now know that the Emperor has some awesome combat skills with the Force lightning and the unorthodox lightsaber work from Revenge of the Sith.

On top of an awesome fight scene, you have father and son trying to protect each other, because they have found each other anew and are desperately afraid they will lose the other. But in the end, Vader sacrifices himself, killing the Emperor in the process, to save Luke. Because he figures that Luke deserves to live more than he does.

A big finish. It works. I know because I rewrote that part of the Jedi script. If you want to see it, drop a comment here.

3 comments:

Matt said...

Maybe your re-written scenes should be acted out with Lego models :)

I hear they work for pennies and don't eat much.

Trackball of Truth said...

Good idea!

You haven't heard bitching till you've heard a Lego minifigure go on about their sight lines and the craft service.

Have to figure out how to do stop-motion Force lightning though.

Autumn said...

Return of the Jedi needs a good sex scene.